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Jeffrey Goldberg Says Sources for Trump Military Remarks Refused to Go On Record to Avoid ‘Being Inundated with Angry Tweets’

President Trump salutes as he stands with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as a military honor guard carries the remains of Americans killed in Syria during a dignified transfer ceremony at Dover Air Force Base, in Dover, Del., January 19, 2019. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The editor-in-chief of the Atlantic — who published a bombshell report Thursday night detailing disparaging remarks that President Trump allegedly made about dead American soldiers during a 2018 trip to France — said Friday that his sources refused to go on the record despite his best efforts because they were concerned about being publicly derided by the president.

“They don’t want to be inundated with angry tweets and all the rest. And we push hard, and that’s why you have to sort of do this reporting with even more belt-and-suspenders approach. You know, dotted i’s and crossed t’s and find multiple sources for it,” Jeffrey Goldberg told CNN’s Jim Sciutto when asked about his decision to publish the story without on the record sources.

“Each time, this is a judgment call, right? Does the public’s interest in needing this information outweigh the ambiguities or the difficulties of anonymous sourcing? Goldberg continued. “And in this case, I decided that I felt I knew this information well enough from high enough sources and multiple sources that I thought we should put it out.”

Goldberg’s story quotes “four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion,” who report that the real reason President Trump refused to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 was because he did not want to get his hair wet and felt it wasn’t important to honor those buried there, saying the cemetery was “filled with losers.” Goldberg also reports that on the same trip, Trump called U.S. marines who died in the World War I battle at Belleau Wood “suckers.”

Since its release, both the Washington Post and The Associated Press have quoted anonymous sources who back up Goldberg’s claims. But multiple current and former Trump administration officials have come forward to say the story is inaccurate, and internal Navy documents that were obtained by other journalists via public-records request state that Trump’s visit to the cemetery was canceled due to inclement weather.

John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, details the trip in his recent memoir — which often describes the president in damning terms — but makes no mention of anything resembling Goldberg’s account. Bolton told the New York Times that he was there when the decision to not visit Aisne-Marne was made and did not hear Trump say what Goldberg alleges. “It was a straight weather call,” Bolton stated. “ . . . I’m not saying he didn’t say them later in the day or another time but I was there for that discussion.”

The story also details Trump’s disdain for former senator and Navy combat veteran John McCain, whom Trump has publicly called a “loser” in the past. We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral,” Trump reportedly said after McCain passed away following a long battle with cancer.

Following the story’s publication, Trump tweeted that he “never called John a loser and swear on whatever, or whoever, I was asked to swear on, that I never called our great fallen soldiers anything other than HEROES.”

Trump, who is often critical of unflattering coverage, tweeted Friday that Goldberg’s story was made up “in order to gain some relevance,” and said the Atlantic was a “dying” magazine.

In May, after Trump tweeted that the “boring but very nasty” publication was “going down the tubes,” Goldberg told the Washingtonian that his magazine had received a record-number of new subscriptions.

Goldberg’s bombshell report also includes an anecdote in which Trump questions the value of the sacrifice made by then-secretary of homeland security and retired Marine general John Kelly’s son, Robert, a U.S. marine who was killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2010.

During a 2017 visit to Arlington National Cemetery, while standing next to Kelly over his son’s grave, Trump reportedly asked, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” Goldberg says that Kelly declined to comment for the story, but “people close to him” said Kelly initially brushed off the comment as a clumsy attempt at humor, but later saw it as reflective of Trump’s inability to comprehend the motivations of people who sacrifice for others.

In the past, Goldberg has claimed that Trump is “a de facto agent of Russian President Vladimir Putin,” and while at the New Yorker reported extensively on claims that Saddam Hussein had deep ties to Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, which to this day remain unconfirmed.

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